While Bali is extremely popular with tourists and Jakarta the go-to city in Indonesia, the country’s third-largest city – Medan – is rarely ever considered. The traffic-heavy, land-locked province has its quirks, but it is a city buzzing with character and a seamless blend of races. The ethnic diversity in Medan stems from Indonesia’s period of colonisation (1800 – 1942) and sets the foundation for the city’s myriad of cuisines.
As the food haven of Indonesia, explore Medan through its culinary scene and perhaps one might find that there is much more to the area than just a disintegrating colonial-era charm. Here, a foodie’s beginner guide to Medan.
The Upper Level is the brainchild of Head Chef Kartika Z, who brings her experience in Michelin Starred restaurants like Burnt Ends to the table. The cosy fine-dining restaurant is a personal reflection of her story and journey in the culinary world, and guests can only expect warm service and delicious eats in this humble space. Choose between 4 different six-course menus, or for those who know what they want, an ala carte menu is available too.
For the cosmopolitan traveller, visit Soho Capital for an elegant yet casual dining experience. SOHO is an elegant, casual dining venue featuring a mixture of Japanese and Western cuisines, accompanied by an excellent wine selection. Dine in the comfort indoors for a celebratory dinner and head outside for a drink against the sweeping cityscape.
One of the more moreish selections on this list, Rumah Makan Tabona is an authentic Indonesian eatery that has been serving Medanese Curry since 1983. The hearty bowl is served with chunks of beef or free-range chicken, accompanied with your choice of carbs. We recommend the noodles in the generous curry and a glass of iced calamansi on the side.
If you love duck, make sure to take a pit stop at Bihun Bebek Kumango. Here, find thin rice vermicelli crowned with generous chunks of tender duck meat accompanied with a bowl of broth on the side. The cloudy broth is boiled with a whopping hundred ducks, so be sure not to sideline that bowl of piping hot soup. Each bowl of noodles is also topped with fragrant bits of fried garlic that elevates the dish to a whole new scale of savoury goodness altogether.
Soto, a traditional Indonesian soup made by slowly braising cuts of meat and vegetables is best had at Soto Kesawan. It is one of the longest-serving Soto joints in Medan, and locals and tourists alike flock here for a bowl of mouth-smacking goodness. The soup is enriched with coconut milk and a hearty selection of prawn, beef or chicken, but the beef remains one a crowd favourite with its spongy thin slices of beef lung.
Ask anyone in Medan about a Chinese restaurant and they will direct you to Taipan restaurant. The establishment is a great place to feast on some authentic Chinese cuisine and innovative twists to local favourites. Although they have regular cheong fun, steamed rice noodle rolls, Taipan included a unique mushroom version for all their fungi-loving guests.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.
Jocelyn Tan is a travel, food and design writer who loves to explore lesser-known cities abroad and chat with locals about their favourite eats in town. When she’s not writing, she’s probably indulging in serial killer podcasts or reading one too many books on East Asian history.
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